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Jewish, Muslim volunteer effort to deliver packages on Christmas

FILE -- Pete Schwager loads boxes of donated goods while volunteering for Shalom Salaam Tikkun Olam at West High School in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 25, 2017. Members and interfaith friends of Utah’s Jewish and Muslim communities, under the leadership of National Council of Jewish Women, delivered packages to roughly 15 homeless families, 450 homebound seniors and 100 refugee families. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY,  Utah — Jewish and Muslim volunteers with many others will be sorting and packing boxes of food, clothing and household items at West High School on Christmas Eve. Then, they’ll deliver boxes of food, clothing and household items to elderly residents and refugee families on Christmas morning.

It’s a program that brings together Jewish and Muslim volunteers to help the broader community at Christmas time. The effort is called Shalom Salaam Tikkun Olam, after the Hebrew and Arabic words for “peace” and the Jewish ideal of healing the world.

“We took those two words and the concept […] of repairing the world,” said Scott Kelpper, an organizer of the project.

He explained the Hebrew word “shalom” and the Arabic word “salaam” both translate to “peace.”

The program started as a way to give the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen staff the day off on Christmas. The National Council of Jewish Women spearheaded the effort 28 years ago. Now, they work with student leaders at East and West high schools.

This collaboration is how they serve many families.

“They do know the packages are coming because all of the families are connected through one of the schools,” Klepper said.

Klepper said it can be hard sometimes to communicate with families new to the U.S. Despite this, Klepper said he enjoys delivering the packages.

“There’s nothing better than delivering to somebody […] who can’t or doesn’t get out very much,” Klepper said. “Who doesn’t have a lot of local family that visits very often.”